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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 1:46 pm GMT 
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Fernán felt the play of his touch as he had the snag of branches against his cloak during those long hours off road. The fever had burned high, then. Now a similar heat stole into his chest and head. Perhaps it had been simmering by the fire, stoked by the odd glance he stole at the figure slumped just out of the range of the light. Long legs sprawled out before him, arms crossed like a shield before his chest, he'd looked foreign. Feral. Untouchable. It was surreal to have him so close now; like coming face to face with a dream. And the dream's fingers slid along the leather of his jerkin, played his ties, fell from the ridge of his belt. With each trespass he felt his breath quieten in his chest till the point he realised he was holding it.

He's not real, Fernán remembered. He ached for him. Neither of us are.

The nameless rider turned away, and his hand with it. Fernán imagined himself reaching out, pulling him around and pushing him against the wall and letting them melt into one in the shadows of the hall in a haze of copper taste, and the scent of old blood and newly burnt wood. He found himself about to speak out, call him back-- and without a name to call him, couldn't bring himself to break the silence. His pockets tethered his hands. The ache in his ribs was enough to remind him just how much their bodies continued to suffer.

Alsan's hand would have just alighted on the handle when he heard him speak over the click of another lock. So Fernán had turned away too. Alsan's weren't the only collection of scars and little arteries that need knotting together under the veil of sleep.

"Midday. We can afford it." The groan of the door met his words. "Need the time."

A flash of a sea coloured eye, and with a murmur of goodnight, they stood apart once more. The door shut, and the corridor grew a little colder.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:53 pm GMT 
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He glanced back over his shoulder, only once, paused on the threshold with his door already ajar. Those eyes gleamed briefly in the darkness, and disappeared into the shadows. The soft click of the latch echoed around inside his skull and dropped like a rock into the pit of his stomach. Where he'd been frozen, suspended in a moment made infinite by possibilities, the sound of the shutting door propelled him back into the hard, unpleasant certainty of the present. As though making up for lost time, he stepped through into his room and shut his own door behind him. Even here, in the privacy of darkness and solitude, his mask was impeccable. Still, he'd taken that step a fraction of a second too fast, and had closed the door just a little too sharply for a man whose outward composure was bolstered by peace of mind.

Alone in the deep gloom, he leaned back against the door and exhaled a slow breath, as though by emptying his lungs he could clear the haze that clouded his thoughts. He was seized by one mad impulse after another: to leave his door unlocked and see what happened; to go back now and knock on the door with some flimsy excuse, or no excuse at all. With his eye closed, he could feel the memory of dark hands on his wrists, his waist, in his hair. His skin crawled, and he pressed one hand to his stomach, clenching it into a fist. He felt like a man burning from the inside out. Worst of all, he knew where this road led: to ruin. The last time this sort of mad, feverish desire had taken root in him, he'd spent two years with the Dothraki and lost an eye for his trouble.

Didn't stop him from thinking back on it, though. Sometimes. He could remember sitting aside his horse with a cool steppe wind drying the sweat in his hair, the blood congealing on his sword, watching the khal with that same, sick animal hunger. He'd fallen in with the rest of the khalasar, but his eyes had tracked the khal, watching him ride, watching the muscles in his broad shoulders, the bare skin of his back. And when the khal had glanced back at him, their eyes had met.

Alsan locked the door behind him and crossed to the window, muttering a few breathless curses as he went. Even here, alone, he didn't allow himself to limp. He unlatched the window and pushed it open. Frost glazed the panes, obscuring the world beyond. Immediately, a gust of freezing wind swept past him into the room. He stuck his head out, gasping as the cold stung his face and set his eye to watering. He should have remembered that this window faced north. The land stretched away in all directions; the vast, glittering lake lay to the south, obscured from view. The moon had risen, but gray clouds masked the sky and dimmed its light. The wind carried a smell of frost, one that threatened snow. In the darkness, the winter landscape took on a ghostly blue cast.

The North. He would be glad to leave this place behind him. He withdrew into the warmer confines of the room and shut the window. Where he'd touched the pane, the frost had melted just enough to reveal a glimpse of the world outside, framed in a smudged print of his hand. He sat heavily on the thin mattress, eased his boots off, slipped the knife under his pillow, and rolled over, intending to sleep.

He lay awake for a long time.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:13 am GMT 
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His sleep blistered him.

New images arise like smoke, and the story of his dreams twisted and fragmented, lost in a sadistic maze. Sometimes it would be the pale silhouettes of trees, piercing the ice beneath him to strive their way up through to the sky, through their bedrock of rotting horses, and matted furs stitched onto the skin of men. He wandered, drunkenly, and the tread of his bare soles never seemed to touch the earth. And then, bending down to drink from a steam the colour of pale wine, he found himself far to the south. He was dressed still in the blackened furs of the Watch, and the weight of it half-buried him beneath the familiar burn of the sun. There was no point to struggling. Thin silk banners wove above him. There were voices here. Before it had been silent, still as the first snows.

The cloak shifted, and he watched her shrug off the thick darkness, pluck raven feathers black as her eyes from the curve of her shoulderblades. Using one as a quill, she fell to her knees and began to write in the dust with her blood for ink. Try as he might, he couldn't muster the strength to stop her. A dress of crimson trailed behind her like a wine stain, and gold snaked around her throat and formed a chain.

Black. Breath in his ear; hot, fast, mesmerising. (He had to break it off. The collar. He couldn't remember who's.) Their hands, their mouths, the unseen interplay of their bodies. Even in the dream he couldn't stop himself groaning. Light began to move through the darkness like the first rays of dawn. His fingers, soft and tender slipped beneath the ridge of the eyepatch and lifted it.

The eye beneath was black. There was no soul. And he felt a pair of hands as small and clever as hers slip around his throat and began to squeeze as a soft, husky voice began to sing his name in his ear over and over, hers and his, his and hers, and they clawed through his windpipe and ripped the lungs from his chest.


Pain in his knees. He was gasping, kneeling, only dimly aware of the way his hands clawed at his shirt. Still half-buried in nightmare he tore it over his head to stare down at his chest and stomach, and press his hands to the scar that divided them. His palms felt dry, though he could feel cold sweat beading across his shoulders, chilling the back of his neck. Disbelieving, he pressed a hand to his mouth, tasted it, half-convinced he could smell the reek of iron in his nostrils. But as his hand fell away and he slumped against the side of the bed, there was no blood in his mouth.

Gasping.
Kneeling.
Tortured.

For almost an hour he stayed like that; measuring the passage of time with each fractured breath as each droplet of sweat threatened to freeze on his skin. Only then, when the imagined blood had drained away and the pain in his chest extended only to the edges of his lacerated ribs did he try to stand. Even then his hand was clumsy as it wrung out the flannel and smoothed it over his neck and chest. As he let his forehead sink to rest against the cold stone walls, he allowed himself the luxury of a touch. Here, to the memory of the rider's gentle bite. He lingered for a moment of the side of his neck, caught in the hollow pleasure of it. He regretted now that he'd not let it go on longer. The sheets still smelled like him.

Thoughts of Dorne threatened to draw him back into Hell, so he turned and buried his face in the blankets, remembering other things. The sound of that voice, and the desire that came when it cracked. The intensity of his eye, the beauty of his mouth. When sleep came for him it was kinder, and smelled like smoke and had a knife resting at its back.


Dawn came and lit the surface of the lake a liquid silver. The little girl pulled up her skirts and chased the chickens for their eggs. Her mother beat out ragged old furs, and began to split wood with an old chipped axe. And, one by one, the fisherman's boats became mere dots floating on the water's surface like fallen leaves.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:15 pm GMT 
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It was his custom to arise early. Even when recovering from injury, even here where the dawns came later and morning were veiled in darkness, some merciless internal clock stirred him from sleep at what would, in more southerly latitudes, have been first light. He'd slept alone in hopes of making the most of the chance to rest. In the end, though, it hadn't done him much good; now he regretted not being more forward with Fernán when he'd had the chance. He couldn't remember his dreams, if he'd dreamed at all. Alsan was not a creative man, though his subconscious still dredged up the occasional horror to torment him with. He'd certainly seen enough of them.

A restless fire burned in him. Midday, they'd said. Fernán was probably trying to protect him, given his wounded condition, but midday was hours off, and the wait would be torture. Alsan knew he needed rest. The upcoming ride would sap his strength. He lay still, his chest rising and falling rhythmically beneath the blanket. Sleep continued to evade him. His eye wandered over the ceiling. After a while, he sat up. It felt as though he'd been waiting an hour, though in truth it had been perhaps ten or fifteen minutes. In any case, his patience was at its limit.

His boots lay beside the bed, where he'd discarded them. He turned them over and shook them before pulling them on, a habit he'd acquired from long years in the parts of Essos that had scorpions. This morning, he didn't bother to check the bandages, as he'd already done so the previous evening. A gingerly prodding finger confirmed his suspicions that, yes, he was still injured and had not miraculously finished healing overnight. There was nothing left with which to busy himself. His small bundle of gear was already fastidiously packed; his sword was clean and sharp. He could just glimpse the beginnings of a peach-colored glow through the frosted pane of glass.

He kept his steps light in deference to the early hour, and stepped out into the hall. Out here, the temperature dropped immediately. Turning up his collar, he crossed to Fernán's door and knocked.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:14 pm GMT 
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At first, all that seemed to greet him was a surly silence. Whatever extra sense intruders seem to gain on trespassing would be enough to tell Alsan that he'd been heard. Fernán clearly had yet to stir. Evidently he knew as well as Alsan did that the murderous intent of the Night's Watch seldom knocked. It was a toss-up, then, between the promise of an excruciatingly early breakfast call or his new found travelling companion.

They might kill me if I ignore them.

In Fernán's mind, the thought didn't care to elaborate whether it was the rider or the innkeeper he was referring to. Realistically there was a good chance of both.

He was tangled up in the blankets. Mercifully whatever nightmares had come after he'd wandered back to bed sank away from memory as he forced his heavy eyelids open. All he knew was that they had left him drained. His shirt lay discarded on the floor. Some inherent fear made him prop himself up on his forearms to glance down at himself, exposed. In the faint blush of dawn through the window he saw the familiar, ugly sight of the scar. Still, there was no sign of the wound that had ripped him from sleep; no sign of bruising fingermarks on his throat. With an exhausted sigh he let himself slump back -- which his ribs made him instantly regret -- and rest an arm across his eyes. For a moment he steeled himself. Turned his head to relish their gentle warmth against his cheek, and Alsan's lingering scent.

The shirt was cold where it lay on the floor, a little dusty. He balled it into a fist, tossed it onto the bed. The stolen tunic would do. He slung it over his shoulders and paused just long enough to run his hands through his hair. For a moment his skin felt thin as paper, and the floor loose beneath his feet. Dimly he remembered the shadow of a forest, and cast it from his mind. No use in agonising. Instead, his hand checked the position of his dagger, and he unlocked the door.

Tall collar, gazing the sharpness of the man's jaw. In the growing light, the dream-like morning after, Fernán found his breath catching a little in his chest. So it hadn't been embellishment. He hadn't just imagined the strong lines of his face, or the unexpected beauty of his lips.

"... You're eager." He leaned against the wooden frame of the door. Dawn was running its fingers across Alsan's cheek. As the clouds parted, he began to be painted pale gold as Fernán watched. The light touched his mouth, chin, pooled in the hollow of his throat. Fernán's voice was quiet; lazy and low with sleep.

"You miss the King's Road that much?"

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Last edited by Nerfiti on Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:19 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2016 5:59 pm GMT 
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Alsan's gaze took him in unhurriedly. Even after months in the frozen darkness of the North, his skin was a soft cinnamon brown. His throat was exposed beneath a jaw darkened by stubble. He was still a little disheveled, his hair standing up here and there. He clearly hadn't had time to comb it, though in retrospect he wondered if Fernán could get a comb through his hair, ever. Now, as he leaned in the doorway where the light had not yet reached, he had a tell-tale drowsy look which suggested that Alsan's knock had roused him. The truth was, he'd come here intending to get him up and moving. Alsan had grown restless lying in bed, unable to go back to sleep though he knew he needed the rest. He was rather heartlessly willing to inflict the same fate on his new traveling companion. After all, they had a long way to ride in poor conditions.

When he'd lived with the Dothraki, he'd learned to feel a group of riders coming, estimating their speed and numbers by the way their horses' hoofbeats shivered through the dry earth. Looking at Fernán now, he had a similar jittery sensation, as though a whole khalasar was bearing down on his stomach. He'd had some flippant remark ready, but as he stood there looking him up and down, the words dissipated on his tongue. The look on his face was either cool and distant, or trying very hard to seem that way.

His hand moved almost of its own accord, an echo of their parting the night before. His palm flattened against Fernán's chest, slipping one callused thumb beneath the tunic's open collar. Fernán's skin was warm to the touch, warmer by far than Alsan's scarred hand. With a cursory "May I come in?" he exerted just enough pressure to steer them back over the threshold and into the room. Alsan eased the door shut behind them. Diffuse light was just beginning to creep across the warped floorboards. The room bore a few telltale signs of a restless night: the wrinkled shirt, tangled sheets.

"Not the King's Road." He let his hand fall and shrugged off his own tunic, slinging it over the back of a rickety chair. He jerked his chin towards the shipwreck of thin blankets. "Back to bed."

Alsan slipped past him, as gracefully as possible given his bad leg, and sat on the edge of the bed. He pulled his boots off, though he'd only just put them on moments ago. The leather hadn't even begun to warm to the temperature of his skin. Having thus invited himself into Fernán's bed, he stretched out on his back on one side of the mattress. He was almost too tall for the bed; with his legs extended, his heels reached the edge of the mattress. It felt warmer than his own bed, and he settled in automatically, folding one arm behind his head. Only then did he pause and glance up at Fernán, eyebrows raised in an expression so mild as to be almost suspicious.

"...you did say midday."

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:20 am GMT 
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"I did."

Fernán watched him undress. Whoever he was, this man took his time; the way he pulled off his boots and slung his tunic across the back of the chair as if he owned it was almost infuriating. Uninvited, he lay back on Fernán's bed as if it were his birthright and looked across the room at him. Almost as if daring him to reclaim it for his own. He'd encountered similar people like that in the past; spoiled brats for the most part, drunk on their parent's names and the weight of the insignias stitched onto their chest. When first dipping their gilded toes in Dorne they usually found it easy to mock Sands. They weren't aware of the blistering smiles they'd meet or the hackles they'd raised. For the first time in their lives they would have the chance to meet with scorn.

Unchecked - by shyness or fear of rank or discipline - Fernán looked back. At first to that one eye, till the rest of him claimed him... the curve of his throat, the way his fingers flexed like claws. Rich, to be sure. But not quite spoiled. Just a man who knows what he wants.

Or knows just how much he's wanted.

The touch of his hand left a lingering cold; the sight of him a fever. In the pale haze of the morning and his own lingering sleep, they seemed to pass a little dreamlike... Each of these sensations and images a little out of step with time and his own body. Perhaps the night had been so fragmented that his mind hadn't had time to process his new reality; that these were the shoulders he had stolen his clothes from, that this room was his own, that for the next few months this would be the eye that watched his back. There was a surreality to it. At any moment, Fernán found himself thinking- I'll open my eyes and wake up.

Perhaps that was what dulled the annoyance slightly. He probably would have thrown something at Alsan's head under other circumstances. The urge was still there, as he threw the bolt to and shut them away from the rest of the world. Something like frustration, lust, relief, caution. He walked over and shrugged off his jacket to lie it alongside its brother. His knee sunk into the mattress as he gazed down at him; the walking dream, the man that had saved his life and now made him ache. As he spoke his fingers strayed over the blankets where his desperate hands had twisted them to knots. Had the rider seen? Stupid question; of course he had. For a man with one eye, Fernán couldn't shake the suspicion that he saw more than most men.

"I thought I was taking pity on you, like a good sellsword."

The nightmares were lost to him now, becoming nothing more than a lingering unease... but he remembered slipping back into sleep. He'd dreamed about him. The forms were vague as smoke, but their contents had come alive the moment Alsan had touched him. In the early morning they were dulled; made softer, gentler. Control crumbling, his touch left the creases and folds of the blankets to chart the shadows of his stomach. A lazy, light drag of his fingertips. The warmth of a long morning pervaded him; something golden and slow and near sleep.

A laugh; a crooked grin. "Who'd have thought you were so restless."

That laugh hadn't yet died when he let himself recline back into the bed. The knife kept guard in his belt. It provided just enough sharpness to arch his back and keep him wary; an anchor to this world of the living he found himself haunting and not quite able to reach. And the backs of his fingers continued to stray over the battleground of Alsan's scars.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:48 pm GMT 
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"You have that effect on me."

The bed was not built to accommodate an unusually tall man, much less two of them. Lying side by side, their legs and shoulders touched, brushing against one another in the narrow space. Alsan wasn't sure what he'd been thinking; most logical thought had drained from his mind like lukewarm water after a bath, starting from the moment Fernán answered the door. Only minutes ago he'd convinced himself that one more second spent lying in bed would permanently atrophy every muscle in his body, demolishing what remained of his sanity along with it. Yet here he was. Rather, here they were. Fernán's fingers traced lines of warmth across his stomach, a lazy, meandering touch that lingered on his skin.

Actually, he'd half-expected to be lashed out at in some way, for his presumption. He thought he'd seen a flicker of annoyance in Fernán's tell-tale eyes. Who knew how Alsan might have reacted, had their roles been reversed; he'd never frittered away time on speculation. But the sort of man or woman who'd fall readily into his arms had never piqued his interest, not for long. Two months, maybe three, and they'd be back in King's Landing. It seemed like a long time, but--assuming they lived--the days would fly by. Two months was not nearly enough time to unravel a man. Not this sort of man, in any case.

Once it became clear that Fernán had no intention of throwing him out, he rolled onto his side and eased the other man along with him so that Alsan could lie against his back. Immediately, the cool hilt of the dagger dug into his ribs, but for the time being he ignored it. One powerful arm slipped around Fernán's waist. Now it was Alsan's fingers which wandered across his stomach, unconsciously echoing the scar which spanned his torso. His sharp profile rested against Fernán's hair, his slow, even breaths stirring the dark curls. This was a lazy, indulgent sort of intimacy, free of urgency or demands. It was something that Alsan, prior to his wedding, had rarely experienced. With Mariana, he'd quickly become accustomed to it, and it was what he'd missed most during their separation.

Now and then, he'd stir just enough to press a kiss to Fernán's ear, or to the side of his neck. He wasn't a lovestruck idiot who'd trust Fernán with anything other than his life. For the moment, though, he savored the drowsy idleness of the morning, Fernán's warmth and not-quite-familiar scent, the gentle contours of his muscles beneath his hand. White winter sunlight crept across the floor of the room. For now, this was enough.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:04 am GMT 
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His half-open eyes watched their passage.

Here and there the light picked up stray little things usually lost in the sprint of day to day life. There, a little bit of twine from an earlier traveller. Frustrated, they must have cut the bindings on their packages and presumably regretted it later. The sheet of sunlight blanketed the far wall and painted it anew. Peering shyly out from behind the chair there a little scrawled drawing of a horse, scratched deep into the thin plaster. Perhaps that had been the little girl's work, or even her mother's back in the days of her childhood. In its scabbard, Fernán's pillaged sword was picked out along its chipped edge. The rest of his meagre pack stood patiently behind. Their jackets lay overlapped. He watched the light be cut into thin lines between their hanging tassels.

For some reason the pillow felt softer beneath his head, and the air more still. The scars on Alsan's chest moved across his shoulder blades with each breath; little gentle ridges. He found himself counting his breaths, and then becoming lost in the wandering touches, and then coming back again. One, two, three... They deepened, slowed, painted over the back of his neck. Ah, Gods, this felt like Dorne. The soft press of his mouth came now and then... In the dip behind his ear, the side of his neck. And when Alsan's hands finallly fell still, Fernán's rose to meet it to retrace the way he had caressed weeks ago, his eyes laced tight beneath bloody wrappings.

Perhaps this was Alsan's revenge for leaving him so soon. That had been cruel, he thought. It had always been cruel to leave them. But it couldn't be helped, not when it was too painful to stay.

The light fell across the bed. Idly he raised a hand and watched how the light streamed between them and danced across the sheets and their skin. Who knew when they'd next have the luxury of lying bare like this and feeling their heat steal into one another. The North Wind bit deep to the bone, and the dales and valleys held little shelter. It would be layers of stiff wool and fleece and leather, at least until Winterfell where the sun became a little less watery, and the mornings held birdsong once again.

It was then that Alsan's hand wandered across his scar. It was enough to make his eyes flicker down to watch, and grimace in quiet disgust. He didn't have to pull him away; his body acted well enough on its own to urge itself back against Alsan's chest and guide that weathered hand up to the base of his throat- to gentle pulses, and the faint, intermittent touch of his lips against the scarred knuckles.

Not there. Whilst his touch was tender, they hadn't hesitated the night before. Neither of them had, as they'd purposefully sought of eachother's wounds with the quiet intention to hurt. Knives ready in their belts. Just in case. There had been no telling what had waited downstairs for them. Even now, survival's instinct still found him checking the sounds from downstairs, the rate of his own healing, the locked up pain in each of Alsan's steps. He wasn't lovesick enough not to.

Nothing felt quite safe. But in that moment - in the stillness and the pale gold light and bodies still held together with bandages - he found himself sighing into the pillow that it felt good.

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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 2:44 am GMT 
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The force of the reaction took him by surprise. In his drowsy, inattentive state, it took Alsan a moment to realize what must have caused Fernán to wince and flinch away from his touch. He'd noticed the scar, of course he had. It was hard to miss. Fernán had other scars, though. They both did. Any man who lived by the sword ran a good risk of ending up with his skin defaced, his body mutilated. The battles added up and took their toll. When his hand was drawn away, towards the base of Fernán's throat, he did not object, nor did he offer resistance. His callused palm flattened against the arch of the other man's clavicle, the edge of his thumb tracing a gentle path up and down his windpipe, exerting only the faintest hint of pressure.

He had to remind himself that Fernán was not necessarily a fighter, not in the way Alsan had been. His own scars had, for the most part, been rendered invisible to him with the passage of time. Now he scarcely saw them. Even once his current wounds healed, three more scars would hardly make a difference. He wondered whether Mariana would even notice them. Yet he had no idea who Fernán had been before the Night's Watch. How had he come by a scar such as this? His instincts told him that this was not the consequence of some ordinary battle, as much as any battle was ever ordinary.

One parallel was obvious, though Alsan resisted it; of all the scars he carried, the only one he never quite managed to forget was the grisly mess of tissue that lurked beneath his eye patch. He'd glimpsed it, briefly, in the tarnished, warped metal of this mirror or that, but only ever when he was alone. Mariana had never asked to see it, for which he was grateful. Seven years after the fact, it was not so much the appearance of his ruined eye which caused him to keep it covered at all times. In that moment, he'd lost more than the eye, much more. For all the scars he carried on his skin, many more were invisible to the beholder. A few were open wounds, even years later; invisible, yet still raw, still festering, as surely as any injury of the flesh. He would not begrudge Fernán his sensitivities.

His kiss was soft against the roughness of Alsan's knuckles, breath warm as a drowsy sigh eased past his lips. A sudden wash of empathy flooded Alsan's chest. He knew pain when he saw it. Would've been easier if he hadn't. His judgment was compromised enough already. Propping himself up on his elbow, he leaned over Fernán, easing him onto his back. We should go. ...so he should have said. The words lingered in the back of his mind, and yet he couldn't quite pull himself away. Eyes the color of deep water lured him closer, into a slow kiss infused with all the warmth of this quiet morning.

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"On a side note, dvorak, looks like the Pope is recognising your authority in Sainting people. Can only be one person representing God on earth at a time" -TFP


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 Post subject: Re: Lion Rampant
PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:58 am GMT 
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Posts: 46197
Location: Probably a lab. Wishing I was in bed.
Custom Title: Hey kid.
He made no effort to resist. Careful and distracted, the fingers that had cut out arrowheads meandered across Alsan's side and back to the lazy rhythm of the kiss. If his fingertips had been dipped in ink they may well have been painting on the same designs Alsan had seen on his wedding night. Vines snaked up the trestle of his ribs. Simple silhouettes of birds flew across the wing of his shoulder blades, and rivers flowed down the valley of his spine. Perhaps this man had had a Dornish bride of his own once, in that other life that came before he had ever seen snow.

Fernán's head fell back against the pillow. Alsan's kiss left his lips warm. His thumb ran over the apple in Alsan's throat to the angular cut of his jaw. With the same inquisitive, unapologetic boldness blindness had given him, or simply allowed, he followed the band of leather where it crossed Alsan's cheek to his brow and the arch of his eyebrow. Little nicks here and there gave hints to the trauma that continued along their path. Perhaps the same twinge of empathetic pain stopped him from going any further, or the almost forgotten memory of last night's nightmare. He'd touched there before, when his world had extended to the limits of his sense of touch and taste and smell. Memories of that night came as sounds; water dripping, the creak of floorboards and a faint orange tinge beneath his eyelids when he turned his head in the direction of the heat of the fire and the murmur of intoxicating words.

He felt the same ache as then; an almost humiliating need to slip his arms around him and draw him tight against his chest to tattoo the warmth of his skin into his own. Touch-starved, he thought, self-depreciating, amused. I didn't realise I was starving till I tasted him. There was the luxury of looking. He barely knew the faces of the brothers he had left behind manning that dilapidated Wall, not when they had been wrapped beneath their hoods and quiet wariness had met any lingering look. He'd known his face for only hours, but knew that fleck of dark iron beneath Alsan's pupil, the little scar so many children earn just above their Cupid's bow. It was a face he already knew better than Bracken's, or Stark's, or any of the men he had almost died with in the place beyond the edge of the map.

"It's not the face I imagined." He grinned; the confession light and quiet between them. "I thought you'd be older. Darker." His hand strayed into his hair, and his smile widened. "More grizzled and less golden."

Shafts of light came to fall against him; it lightened the darkness of the grey eyes and crowned his fair head. Fernán watched it soften the sharpness of the face above him. Dawn and dusk. Twilight hours suited him, if only because Fernán knew so little of him. Fading light and changing features suited a nameless man with no insignias and no allegiances. A man as real as I am. Dawn, and half-truths, and the promise of safety.

" 'Aman.' " A simple Dornish name; unadorned and contradictory. "... Unless you'd prefer me to call you something with more honourifics."

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